The chemistry on the court hasn't been what it should be yet, and that's understandable. But what's gone on against the lower-echelon teams of the league is not understandable.
When the Knicks have won with their new stars, they've impressed. Five of their six wins have come against teams who'd be in the playoffs as of now, with the only exception being the Bucks, whom they beat in their first game after the trade.
But three of their five losses have been absolutely terrible. Even though it's been a short period that these guys have been together, they're games that a team like the Knicks should win.
Two losses, believe it or not, have come against the Cleveland Cavaliers. It's as if LeBron James is playing for Cleveland every time the Knicks face them. The Knicks have lost 11 straight games to the Cavaliers, but at least the first eight were with LeBron. The Knicks are 0-3 against Cleveland this season and 34-28 against all others.
Following a loss to Cleveland the first time with Anthony, the Knicks went ahead and beat the Heat in Miami. After the Knicks lost to Cleveland again at home, they beat the Hawks in Atlanta. They just had a stretch where they stringed together wins against the Hawks, Jazz and red-hot Grizzlies on the road.
After getting blown out of the building by the Mavericks in Dallas—which wasn't shocking considering the circumstances—you'd figure beating the Pacers would be easy. Instead, on Sunday night in front of a sold-out Garden, the Knicks couldn't even compete with lowly Indiana.
Even with their star player Danny Granger, the Pacers had lost six straight to get knocked out of the playoff picture in the East. In this game, they didn't have Granger due to injury and they schooled the Knicks.
Out of nowhere came Tyler Hansbrough to put together a career-game, and before you could blink, it was 6-0 Pacers. Even after the Knicks temporarily took a one-point lead on a fabulous cross-court pass from Billups to Anthony for an and-one, they didn't have any energy in them. That was their only lead and the sole exciting moment of the game.
How can the Knicks have one lead—of one point—in a home game against an awful road team?
In the fourth quarter, the Knicks defense actually stepped up. They had cut a 20-point deficit in half and could have come back, but their "great" offense went ice cold. They went on a five-minute scoreless stretch that featured four consecutive offensive fouls. It seems the Knicks always see their offense go cold when they pick it up on defense.
Something is not working, obviously, but why against the bad teams?
You can make the case it'll mean good things to come in the playoffs because there aren't any bad teams.
But is it a lock that the Knicks make the playoffs? Things have tightened so much in the East that the Nets have become a factor with five straight wins.
A talking head made a point that perhaps the Knicks are trying not to win so many games so that they don't reach the Hawks for the fifth seed. That way, they can face the Heat in the first round. That makes no sense at all.
The excuses must stop.
A couple of games a go, Amar'e Stoudemire even admitted that the team doesn't have the same energy against bad teams. This could all be the fault of the head coach. Mike D'Antoni is known for not caring about defense, but perhaps he doesn't care about winning every night.
With Anthony, Stoudemire and Billups, how do the Knicks not win every game against teams like Cleveland and Indiana?
Someone needs to light a fire under this team and quickly. In fact, next season will be even more important. When the Knicks start fresh with all the other teams and with sky-high expectations, will they lose against these same teams?
Some have projected the Knicks to perhaps snag a top-four seed in the East next season, and it isn't looking like that will happen as long as this careless play continues.
The Knicks must not think about their playoff positioning and just try to win every night. That attitude should begin on Tuesday at the Pacers. If that's how they approach things, they'll be fine. If they continue to not care every game, getting to the playoffs might be tougher than originally expected.